Thanksgiving brings school family together for traditional holiday meal
Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 3:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 3:41 p.m.
ALACHUA — Kathryn Lehtola scooped the stuffing onto a plate as fellow teachers and parents bustled around the classroom.
The kindergarten teacher served her little pilgrim and American Indian students and their parents as the room buzzed with friends catching up, laughter and children playing.
“We come together like a family,” she said. “That's the real meaning of Thanksgiving.”
On Tuesday -- the last day of school before the Thanksgiving holiday -- Irby Elementary held its annual Thanksgiving Feast, a longstanding tradition where about 150 kindergarteners and their teachers share a holiday meal with their families. Today, families across North Central Florida will be doing the same.
The Irby children, dressed in bonnets, sang holiday songs for their families before digging into the turkey, potatoes and cranberry sauce, among other dishes.
Diane Miller, longtime kindergarten teacher at Irby, has worked the feast since its inception more than 20 years ago at Alachua Elementary, before kindergarten through second grade split off to become Irby.
Dressed in a green pilgrim outfit, with a white bonnet and apron, Miller posed for pictures with several eager students.
She said she enjoys seeing the parents and students bond during the feast each year.
“It's just perfect for getting us all together like a big family,” she said.
The teachers and students spent Monday preparing much of the food, creating balls of stuffing (easier for serving), mashing potatoes and mixing ingredients for pumpkin squares.
Lyndsey Twardoski said she noticed as she volunteered to help cook Monday that the students took a lot pride in being able to help prepare the feast.
“They love seeing that they worked so hard and produced,” she said.
Twardoski sat at a short table decorated with a placemats colored by students, including her her 5-year-old son, Corbin.
As he sat with his mom, his younger brother Ezra and his father, Joel, Corbin pondered his favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal.
After a few seconds, the green beans on his plate caught his eye.
“Vegetables!” he smiled.
In another classroom, 6-year-old Dani Mann professed her love of pumpkin bread, turkey and apple sauce as the red, green and yellow noodle necklace dangled from her neck and the feathers of her paper headdress swayed.
“I like sweet potatoes a lot,” she said.
Kindergarten teacher Valerie McMahon sees the feast as a good way to interact with parents outside the usual parent-teacher conference.
“It's a good way to touch base positively,” she said.
James Weier picked at his turkey as his daughter Christina gulped the last of her chocolate milk.
Like many parents and family members, he went into work early so he could take a longer lunch break and spend time with his daughter.
“I wouldn't miss something like this for the world,” he said.
Contact Joey Flechas at 338-3166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.